She first asked if she could bring in a high school basketball team to be a part of the Maryvale Family YMCA competitive league for the summer of 2017. She works with opportunity youth and personally pays for them to play. Thanks to Maryvale’s Annual Support Campaign we were able to offer her financial assistance for the players. Coach Esther was grateful for this as without it she would not be able to afford to have the kids play. Her team went on to win to the valley-wide championship in their first season, her first of many championships. At the beginning of the Season, her son Apollo who plays on the team made a request that he could only use the jersey number 22. It is not unusual for players to request a number but this was in honor of his later sister.
Coach Esther started Coaching because of her daughter Athena. Her daughter’s name is Athena Dawkins and she passed away on August 22, 2016, in a car accident at the young age of 22. The number 22 is etched in the heart of the Dawkins family as well as the game of basketball. Athena played basketball as an adolescent for the city of Phoenix at Desert West. Athena’s coach was going on vacation and her team needed another coach to fill in. Athena kept asking her mother to fill in. Esther was scared and didn’t have the confidence to take on the task. Athena kept saying, “Mom I’ll help you along the way.” Coach Esther decided to try it and hasn’t looked back. She started with one team and ended at Desert West coaching 5 teams at a time. Esther explained that her daughter gave her the confidence to Coach. She soon realized that Coaching was just an extension of being a parent. She would never scold her kids in front of others. She respects her kids and in return gets the respect back. In 14 years of Coaching children and teenagers, she has never been cursed at or disrespected by any of them.
Coach Esther is a natural fit to coach at the Y. She uses the Y’s core values of honesty, respect, caring and social responsibility.
She not only uses these in her coaching process but teaching her team to use these core values in everyday life. She mostly coaches “opportunity youth” and finds that after giving them attention and just talking to them that they start to change their habits. She sees how they start to change the way they communicate and even get better grades. All the kids knew Athena very well and wanted to win this Championship in her memory. This is one of those moments when a sport is more than just a game. This is a moment that the team, Coach Esther and the staff at the Watts Family Maryvale YMCA will never forget.